Parliamentary interpreter Nicole Gagnon poses for a photo on Parliament Hill, Tuesday January 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Parliamentary interpreter Nicole Gagnon poses for a photo on Parliament Hill, Tuesday January 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Parliamentary hearings over Zoom an ongoing headache for translators

The problem persists as MPs prepare to return virtually to the House of Commons next week

Translators say they are “riddled with auditory injuries” after nine months of interpreting parliamentarians online via fuzzy laptop mics and poor internet connections.

The association representing some 70 accredited interpreters who translate English into French and vice versa on Parliament Hill says seven in 10 respondents to a new survey have experienced auditory issues that forced them to go on leave for recovery.

The problem persists as MPs prepare to return virtually to the House of Commons next week, even as roughly 15 per cent of staff interpreters remain on leave and a growing number of freelancers also take time off from work.

The strain of Zoom-based proceedings has also prompted shorter shifts and more requests for transfer to non-virtual assignments during the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in a shrinking pool of available translators.

Interpreter Nicole Gagnon says she has experienced some hearing loss due to a constant stream of low-quality sound and loud feedback loops, while her colleagues are coping with tinnitus, nausea and headaches.

The federal translation bureau did not respond immediately to requests for comment on calls for better sound quality.

Many Canadians grapple with the frustrations of daily video conferencing, but Gagnon says the clash of speaking constantly overtop of audio from high-decibel MPs adds a level of physical strain and mental stress that has pushed some to the breaking point.

A study last fall found Canada ranked 13th out of 81 countries in the number of acoustic shock incidents suffered by interpreters, with six in 10 Canadian respondents having reported symptoms typical of the trauma.

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

canadian politicsfederal government

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Butter and sourdough bread is shown at a house in Vernon, B.C. on Wednesday, February 24, 2021. A Quebec dairy farmers’ group is calling on milk producers to stop feeding palm oil or its derivatives to livestock as controversy churns over how these supplements affect the consistency of butter. (THE CANADIAN PRESS - Jesse Johnston)
Poll: Care to spread your feelings on butter?

Reports of hard butter have rattled the Canadian dairy industry

A dose of COVID-19 vaccine is prepared at a vaccination clinic in Montreal’s Olympic Stadium on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
39 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health region

The total number of cases in the region since the pandemic began is now at 7,334

Arrow Lakes Caribou Society said the new caribou pen near the Nakusp Hotsprings is close to completion. (Submitted)
Maternity caribou pen near Nakusp inches closer to fruition

While Nakusp recently approved the project’s lease, caribou captures are delayed due to COVID-19

Illuminate Spirit Revelstoke Society said Revelstoke’s dark downtown core is unwelcoming. Lighting would make it more inviting and a point of interest. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)
New community group hopes to ‘light up’ Revelstoke

Illuminate Spirit Revelstoke Society aims to purchase decorative lights for the downtown core

Kootenay-Columbia MP Rob Morrison speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons. File photo.
Kootenay-Columbia MP supports motion condemning Uighur genocide

Rob Morrison says labelling Uighur persecution as a genocide sends a message to Chinese government

Abbotsford’s Kris Collins turned to TikTok out of boredom when the provincial COVID-19 lockdown began in March 2020. She now has over 23 million followers on the video app. Photo: Submitted
Internet famous: Abbotsford’s Kris Collins is a TikTok comedy queen

Collins has found surprise stardom alone with a phone

Pig races at the 145th annual Chilliwack Fair on Aug. 12, 2017. Monday, March 1, 2021 is Pig Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Feb. 28 to March 6

Pig Day, Canadian Bacon Day and Grammar Day are all coming up this week

Staff from the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, passersby, RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue carried a sick 300-kilogram steller sea lion up the steep bluff at Invermere Beach in north Nanaimo in an attempt to save the animal’s life Thursday. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Rescue Centre)
300-kilogram sea lion muscled up from B.C. beach in rescue attempt

Animal dies despite efforts of Nanaimo marine mammal rescue team, emergency personnel and bystanders

Doctors and counsellors warn of an increase in panic attacks, anxiety, depression and suicide ideas between ages 10 to 14, in Campbell River. ( Black Press file photo)
Extended pandemic feeding the anxieties of B.C.’s youth

Parents not sure what to do, urged to reach out for help

Kara Sorensen, diagnosed with lung cancer in July, says it’s important for people to view her as healthy and vibrant, rather than sick. (Photo courtesy of Karen Sorensen)
B.C. woman must seek treatment overseas for inoperable lung cancer

Fundraising page launched on Karen Sorensen’s behalf, with a goal of $250,000

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Gina Adams as she works on her latest piece titled ‘Undying Love’. (Submitted photo)
‘Toothless’ the kitty inspires B.C. wood carver to break out the chainsaw

Inspired by plight of a toothless cat, Gina Adams offers proceeds from her artwork to help animals

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson presents bill to delay B.C.’s budget as late as April 30, and allow further spending before that, B.C. legislature, Dec. 8, 2020. (Hansard TV)
How big is B.C.’s COVID-19 deficit? We’ll find out April 20

More borrowing expected as pandemic enters second year

The first of 11 Dash 8 Q400 aircraft's have arrived in Abbotsford. Conair Group Inc. will soon transform them into firefighting airtankers. (Submitted)
Abbotsford’s Conair begins airtanker transformation

Aerial firefighting company creating Q400AT airtanker in advance of local forest fire season

Most Read